The Shadow Years and The Shadow casting over readers

As far as I know, Hannah Richell has published two books: Secret of The Tides and The Shadow Years. I fortunately have both in my possession as birthday gifts from a friend who is also a brother to me. I read Secret of The Tides and even though I only have few pages left to finish, I have never actually finished it. The drama is so well-built that I sensed my heaviness built along with it. I took my time reading that one, rather slow, both because I tried not to rush into the “after-reading” feeling and because I needed breaks from that tragedy illustrated through the story.

I brought the second book of hers with me to France, and for the last few days, almost the same things happened again. I said “almost” as I actually finished the book this time. I even read the author’s interview at the end, seeing how Hannah said she was afraid she might not be able to drive off the “beaten path” of her first book. Even though both of the books orbit around one tragedy event which led people do towards paths belonging to “grey” area of the brains—quoted Hannah’s words herself—the Shadow Years brings out stronger pulling force inside me to search for the answers. When I finished it yesterday, I had to jot down my thoughts before they slipped away, and I rolled around on my bed still shivering a little from how I have been a part of the story, like a witness watching everything happening from the outside.

I must warn you, some spoiler alerts might be noticed soon, but I will try my best not to ruin your curiosity.

The story is based on a cottage, a still cottage placing almost in the middle of nowhere, but luxuriously being offered the finest beauty of nature all around. What happens in this still cottage is a time string connecting past and present events. One point, readers found themselves watching 5 recent graduated students in 1980 and another point, we will soon move back to a woman named Lila, living in London, who has just been in unfortunate event of losing her child. Reading about present event, I couldn’t help finding many resemblance and I am sure I might not the only one. The contrast Lila found between her urban life in London and her (a bit) spooky version in the cottage, is understanding for anyone under similar circumstances.

But stories about Lila is not driven factor for me. To me, Lila is a connecting dot, a result from all twisted events that happened. Reading about Lila calms me down, because what strikes me the most is the past.

 I marked notes throughout the book and when reviewing them, I felt as if I am watching a transformation of 5 young people—who are dreamers, who wish to not step yet into a so-called complicated adult and real world—to a point where each individual drifts off into their real form. Simon, a natural leader and a power addict. Mac, a silent guy who seems not to care about a single thing but also a person desperately need acceptance to be in a group. And Kat, the best transformation or revelation, I am still unsure. Only two others Ben and Carla I have found not going through major shifting.

I found my breath ascending and descending the closer it comes to an end. I understand what Hannah tried to deliver to readers, the “greyness” in people but I still cannot wrap my head around it, how a broken heart and lonely soul can lead Kat becoming someone else. Or maybe deeply it is never revealed until her dream got stolen away. Kat is a representative of a shadow, of dark side and Freya is for the opposite. But for whatever darkness Kat has endured through, she became a survivor, a too rational to be mad survivor I would even say. Freya, the late outsider stepping in, has been protected not to go through childhood tragedies, only found herself later going through an adulthood tragedy which she is never prepared for. 

I think on some level, readers can guess some details happening about the final truth. Maybe, that is why the author plays with our mind a little, make us be impatient a little more until the very end to untie all mysterious knots in our heads. I recalled myself having goosebumps at the epilogue part, of a truth only could be best described by Hannah “the dance of shadows on the surface of Kat’s brain“. A twisted truth coming out of a knotted situation, in which nobody could see how to undo things or where to fix, certainly not Kat. 

I had to tame myself reading as slow as possible. I know this is going to happen: me being startled by the ending and my emptiness after a good book being read well. I didn’t want to rush, because it was so easy to fall into the trap. If you let yourself suck in, you can’t stop, you will be urged to keep searching for answers behind those shadows. 

This novel’s story is amazingly haunted, and I am sure it will remain so for me in at least couple of more days. The cottage, the landscape, the place at the end remains the same but nobody is sure how much secrets it contains. Finally, there seems to be a reason why Lila kept feeling being watched.



What are the reasons for your decision to buy a book?

For me, I first look at covers (and yes, that is how covers/ packages are ridiculously important sometimes and sure, you are welcomed to disagree). Among all those book covers placing on shelf after shelf, usually, there are some stopping my eyes from moving. Secondly, I pick up those books. I look at the names a bit more closely, letting any triggered, excited, confused feelings rising up, and I look at the back with reviews, before I open to read first few pages inside. That is generally my process. Of course, it also varies sometimes. I might already got recommended to particular books, or I already knew I would buy that certain book for number of reasons I established before stepping into bookstores. Other people have different approaches, and there will be few among them saying my approach seem to focus much on the outside. Well, I do agree.

I was advised while ago to try reading first 10 pages of any book, and if you feel like you still want to read more, then buy it. It was a great advice that I managed to apply with good results. Though now and then, I tend to be ignorant of many things and little stubborn to try not to follow advices, just because they would make me appear smarter. So I do judge on the outside looks.

The point is, I do not think I would ever naturally pick this book “Seven ways to Lighten Your Life Before You Kick the Bucket”. As you can see, the book title indicates it is not even for me. I would be honest to you, that I only read this book because amazingly, I happened to start working with one of the authors—George Simons. As part of ‘the job’, I read the book even though George did not ask me to.

I finished it one hour ago, and refused to go to sleep now without finishing this review first, as tomorrow word flows might disappear. And I did not finish it out of obligation, or effort trying to impress George. In fact, I got sucked into the life stories of George and Walt, and their idea of writing this book originally:

So what did we do when we got stuck on the bucket list? When stuck, play with the words!

And they did. I know you might think the book will TELL you how to live your life to the fullest before you cannot anymore, and here are seven ways to do that, etc., cliché. Well, you are partly right, except George & Walt do not TELL you instructions about those 7 ways to live fullest and happy life. Those seven ways are collection of their stories, throughout their lives. Each of them has their own website: Walt Hopkins and George Simons. Through there, one can see layers of experiences they have obtained, and one should not be surprised of quantity of stories they can share.

What surprised me though was how many notes I made for myself while reading it. Because they wrote this book, aiming for old guys; but did say “we are reasonably certain that people who aren’t guys and who aren’t older will still want to read at least some of this just to keep an eye on us—to find out what the geezers are up to now”. On the contrary, many things in the book that I learned, I am sure other young generators can pick up too. They can be short phrases from sentences or sentences from paragraphs, but I recalled myself smiling or holding breath, or quickly searching for pens underlining while stumbling onto words that touched to my soul. This is the reason for my love of books: I always manage to find something related to my life. Book is a kaleidoscope, once you allows it to be, and you can see all different shapes it can become.

Here are some illustrated examples:

  • From George: “Memories are an important part of life and identity”.

“Just because everyone is doing it, it doesn’t mean you have to do it too.”

  • From Walt: “…That is very difficult, because thoughts of the past and thoughts of the future distract me from the present. It can be as simple as paying attention. Perhaps by looking up from my keyboard to look out the window of this speeding train in which I am writing today—and see a delightfully multi-colors spinning ball out in the middle of a field among other scarecrows.”

Have you had many moments when you sit there listening to endless stories told by your grandparents, and feeling like watching movies of a whole different world? I have never had that with mine, but reading this book feels like it (weird, isn’t it?). I could envision myself as those children I saw on televisions, sitting and concentrating to listen to their grandparents telling how their lives once were different. I did not only learn, but I also got reminded of things I forgot, and because the personal touch is unique enough, I even felt being advised what to do sometimes. I am sure, out of many stories they shared, there would be one or two stories you catch, and think, “Hey! I am only … but I experience this too!”. I never thought much about age (at least I think so) because people are often surprised knowing my age. This book reinforces my belief. It should never be about ages. I don’t have to be that certain age to understand what they might have been through, or they don’t have to be my age to experience what I do. One does not have to be 60s or 70s, to think: “Even at times when you do not need to be highly attentive to friends, to family, to the people you live with, you still need to be sensitive to yourself”.

On the other hand, the book also demonstrates how it is clearly written for old guys through their sense of humour, their way of using playful words or references (that unfortunately, I or some other young generators might not understand). George and Walt’s idea is to move beyond the “bucket list”, and create seven other lists:

  1. Chucket—dump the stuff you don’t need or want.
  2. Shucket—Keep what’s important but distill it.
  3. Ducket—Dodge demands that others throw at you.
  4. Fucket—Trash what no longer works for you.
  5. Plucket—Grasp the sweets that life still offers.
  6. Trucket—Walk your talk and follow your dreams.
  7. Tucket—Tell yourself what’s working in your life.

In each chapter about each list, there is also a reflection part; in which readers are invited to join in the book’s thinking flow. So I would recommend two tips to any readers:

  • Take notes about the meaning of above 7 terms. They are certainly mentioned again throughout the book but for me, there were moments my reading flow went too smooth, I forgot what each term meant whenever I saw them again. I figured, it would be better if I have a note next to me, so when that happens, I can check quickly.
  • Read it slow. And do reflect when reflection part comes. Or at least stop for few seconds for the questions planted in your head. What I did was, sometimes, I marked them down, and told myself to come back one day to reflect. Maybe when I got to their age, because for sure, this book will stay with me until then.

I wrote this, more than just a book review. I caught part of the sentence Walt wrote: “…that part of being alive is noticing life around me, turning it into a story, and sharing the story with others”. I personally always believe in the art of story telling. I put a lot of exclamation marks behind this sentence. So, by reading this book, I noticed lives of two remarkable people through their stories and let myself be inspired. I felt it to be a little responsibility of mine to share their words to even more people, despite my humble blog network.

If you find this to be interested enough, they have a Facebook page which goes beyond these …ucket lists for you to check out!

Random movies reflection

I know I am still on a quest of answering (or trying to) 1000 questions about Jyväskylä city before my flight away; but waking up today I realised I owed myself a post about three movies I recently watched, not series, movies. They have kicked in my brain, have left many touching marks,  and have stayed longer than a regular movie is supposed to under various forms, questions, statements, relation, feelings. I feel as if one day in future, my future self would love to be reminded of these, about that difficult time period and mirror-like reflection upon those movies.

(However, this post is not meant for movie reviewing or critics)

Into the Wild 

After graduating from Emory University, top student and athlete Christopher McCandless abandons his possessions, gives his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Along the way, Christopher encounters a series of characters that shape his life.


Sean Penn


Sean Penn (screenplay), Jon Krakauer (book)

I watched this movie while being in Stockholm, Sweden, with my host. We went out to buy fast Thai food, brought home and had lovely chat while enjoying dinner. At some point in that lovely chat, we talked about nature and people, among many (potentially deep) topics we went through. I mentioned first about another movie named Frozen (not the cartoon one, definitely not the cartoon one), in which three main characters are unfortunately stuck outside over a night whereas weather was extremely cold. They were on a skiing trip. It was one of the harsh movies I have watched, and the fright came not from fictional ghosts or crazy murderers, but from unexpected incident and nature itself. My host, suggested us watching “Into the Wild“, he smiled saying I would love it.
I did. I totally did. As if I was watching my idol living my dream life, even if in last moments of his life, his long-desired loneliness changed into the most haunted fear anyone is too afraid to imagine. He died alone, out of a rookie mistake that anyone could have come across. Christopher grew up in a family, in which he always felt stuck inside, between the fights of his parents and their demand of who they want him to be. He was shaped up based on words from books, and his mind was filled with deepness from how he saw the world. He grew up, graduated and decided to choose irregular life. The life him living in the wood, alone with nature and animals. He went through a whole long path before he even reached there. He lived here and there. He met these people and those. He inspired them in different ways. He connected with them under variable strings.
I watched the movie, and I found a small rising desire to be in where he is. It would be easier, wouldn’t it? Not worrying about society, people around looking at you different or trying to be as ordinary as others, trying to figure out about future as others. I am not sure whether I was sharing the same mindset with the main character while watching this movie, but I can imagine myself curiously listening to his world view. All the people he met along the way, I do always wish to have similar things happened somewhere in my life. I want to live a life, in which I can keep moving, maybe stop here now and then, learn culture and ways of living here now and then. The older I get, the harder my dream is getting to be. Sometimes, life turns out to be more limited than the sentence :”there is no limit as long as you want it“.
On the other hand, the movie ending, represented one of the biggest fear of human being – being alone. I mean, we choose to be alone sometimes. “Being alone becomes a choice“, when you feel as if your trust on others is not as strong as the one you have with yourself. Even so, I was told human is designed to be with each other at some point along the way, which I also agree, don’t you? Having a companion, a friend to share is vital because sometimes, not being alone also becomes a choice.
The vacation of a famous rock star and a filmmaker is disrupted by the unexpected visit of an old friend and his daughter.
I and my friends were not supposed to watch this movie. Our plan was having a thesis seminar, going to have dinner and watching Dead Pool in cinema. It turned out that we were already exhausted enough after the seminar and couldn’t wait until the time of Dead Pool being played; hence, we thought, why not being spontaneous once? We just went straight to the cinema, and picked up one movie on show just at that time and it turned out to be “A Bigger Splash“. I have no idea about background of this movie, and I have not even caught a glimpse of its trailer. One of the rare time I went blindly to watch a movie, and paid money for it too. You can guess where this is going, I love the movie.
On IMDb website, there describes only that one sentence saying about the movie. I ensure you there are more than that, but maybe they are rather hard to capture in words. Maybe such one sentence is already good enough of a general description. I feel like there can be no general description of this movie. It conveys this twisted vibe, where you might feel annoyed at first being wrapped inside but if you just don’t get panic quickly and slowly breath, you will enjoy the wrap. And then there were not many lines being said, but almost things were hidden through character’s face expression. I assume this is the most twisted part, as viewers are free to interpret whatever fits to their own senses. I spoke to my friends after the movie and we all had different opinions & statements. The discussion was fun and interesting enough that I could see us re-start such conversation another time. My friend even suggested maybe the movie was in the list of “things you watch again just to absorb it more“.
High schooler Greg, who spends most of his time making parodies of classic movies with his co-worker Earl, finds his outlook forever altered after befriending a classmate who has just been diagnosed with cancer.
When my friend first told me to come to his place and watch this movie, I thought to my head, God, it would be another funny cartoon movie. But well, again, as you know where this is going, it was not. The movie is beautiful, in its filming style, in its story-telling tone, in its contrast and harmony in colours throughout the scenes. I am aware later this movie is based on a book, which normally I don’t enjoy so much, especially after you reading books, movies are too short to capture all the essence. Even though I didn’t read the book, I still sense its movie is successful in delivering such main essence. It is not like any teenager movie, leaving quite similar impression on me as movie “The perks of being a wallflower“. The story is more to be a tragedy, in which a boy falls for a girl who is dying, and not that kind of intense adult love, but the kind of love mixed with friendship, the kind of love being light but strong enough for him to act non-logical, hanging around a person who soon has to leave living world. It is not an easy thing, has never been easy even to form a connection with a person who you know, eventually leaves your life. I cannot imagine forming unique bond with a person who eventually is too tired to fight for life. The movie is also somehow shown through the dying girl’s perspective, with accepted attitude for a grey world but she still allows last shining shed of lights onto her life. She found good friends, she found people who suddenly care for her during her most difficult period of time. And Earl is a mysterious teenage boy. Even though it might not be revealed much in the movie about him, viewers can sense harshness in Earl’s life and childhood, attributing effort in making him who he is. He seems not to care much, learns to be ignorant of difficulty; however so, in his head, there exists layers of untold stories and different philosophical view of living. I love him. I love all three characters. But I love Earl the most. I love the humour of this movie too. I love it enough, to allow myself wondering what I have done so far? And what if one day I learnt that I am not given so much time on living?

“The Kings of Summer” when it is -30 degree outside

Today I just watched movie “The Kings of Summer”. I think I saw the trailer some while ago but I did not too much attention; then, I decided to choose it randomly for this evening entertainment time with my friend. The movie was really great, in a more different way than normally. It talked about three teenagers who escaped from their parents by moving to live in the middle of the forest. They built their own house. They attempted to hunt their own food. They tried to live a life where existed no internet, no television, no modern life but nature. The most important thing for their decision is a life with no adult, but themselves. Do you know how a classic American teenager movie goes? I bet you do. And I also bet some of you used to enjoy those movies, like I used to. Maybe now I changed to a classic American romance comedy movie. Anyhow, in those teenager movies, the older you get, you might start to think inside your mind “how stupid they are to act as such” or “what a teenager!”. And I know I am not in a place with so many years older than being called a teenager; but for the first time in a while, the movie does not give me those thoughts.
The kids in the movie did want to become men, skipping through time growing up so that they can be on their own, being free. Every single kid in this world wants the same thing. Every single kid thinks that being an adult gives you the power to know it all, and being in charge. However, if you watched the movie, did you notice the kids’ problems are rather similar to ours? So they wanted to be free. So they wanted to live a life where everyday passes by plainly, surrounding by nature. So the two best friends had a girl in between, affecting their friendship. So one refused to go back to his own life after all. I mean, I used to think I only acted as such because I was not mature enough. Recently, I realise that the age does not even matter at all. The same kinds of problems remain through time. The only thing which might possibly change is your reaction to them. I used the word “possibly” since there is in fact a chance you react the same way you used to do. It might come under different forms, shaped by all experiences you have been through to. However, I think the core of making you who you are will never go away.
I have never thought about this much either until yesterday, when my friend raised up the topic. She is at different age than I am, more mature but we have shared with each other for the last few days much similar deep down thoughts that we do not even sense the distinct line. She already realised the problems would never actually change a while ago. But I, only, recognised today. The movie was even a coincidental touch.
I guess, the point of me writing this post may be, the next time we interact with a younger or older person, we might slow down our assumption that the age makes us wiser or not wiser. On the base of academic knowledge, one definitely can know much more than another one about a particular topic or even in a general level. On the base of living, I think we can always learn from the differences between ourselves.
In the middle of the movie, there were scenes switching only between the main teenager character and his dad. If you notice it the way I do, you might find what I said possible right.
P/s: the way movie was filmed, is beautiful. I do not have enough knowledge to describe it; so I would contain all my feedback in only that word “beautiful”.